More and more, hardworking people are finding it difficult to keep-up financially. Wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of housing, healthcare and education, and skill levels have not stayed in alignment with changing industry needs. In fact, more than 24% of Franklin County households earned less than $25,000, or about half of what is considered necessary to meet basic needs. If individuals and families are to realize long-term financial independence, they must have access to tools and resources to maximize their income and help them begin to build assets.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps bridge the gap between what people earn and what is needed to survive. Claimed on a person’s tax return, it is designed to supplement wages and reward work – depending on income level, marital status and the number of dependent children, taxpayers earning less than $48,362 can claim the EITC and receive a refund of up $5,657. Recognizing the EITC’s potential benefit to individuals, families and communities, United Way of Central Ohio partnered with Columbus City Council and the Franklin County Commissioners to launch the Franklin County EITC Coalition in October 2006.
The Coalition’s purpose is to raise awareness of the EITC, to provide free, high-quality tax assistance services and to connect people to financial education resources and savings opportunities. HandsOn Central Ohio serves as our primary point of contact with its 2-1-1 telephone number, connecting people with one of the Coalition’s 19 free tax assistance centers in Franklin County.
At these locations, trained volunteers prepare and electronically file tax returns. Special attention is given to deductions and credits which help provide taxpayers with the greatest refund on their return. What’s more, volunteers take the time to talk to clients about why their refund is important to their longer-term financial health. Since 2007, the Coalition helped income-eligible households complete and file 16,000 tax returns. In that time, these taxpayers have claimed over $19 million in refunds and benefited from an estimated $4 million in savings on tax preparation fees and loans.
Read more about the Coalition’s Community Impact here: 2012 Franklin County EITC Community Impact Report.